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Now that the Super Bowl and Valentine’s Day are over, folks can retire their “I hate Tom Brady” memes and jokes for another year and instead focus on alternative forms of entertainment like the recent election and “Impeachment-mania II,” both of which have become a festering boil on the derriere of society. Along with COVID, folks just want to see this whole mess go away and are already busy planning family vacations as life starts to slowly ooze towards normalcy in the economy and especially the airline industry.

Flying is a thrill but still makes me a bit nervous, so any vacation plans or travel on my part this year may have to be grounded. The only time I’ve flown overseas was when I was a kid and my dad took an assignment in France for three years with the Air Force, but I don’t really remember much of that trip since I was only four at the time. I’ve maybe been on three dozen flights my whole life, all of those in the continental U.S. except for that stint in Europe.

Airports are interesting places. They provide a needed service but are not designed as vacation destinations, I don’t think you’ll ever hear “Congratulations! You’ve just won an all expense paid vacation to beautiful Detroit Metro Airport!” Although I’ve heard that some airports are quite attractive and aesthetically pleasing, others are just plain ugly.

I don’t mind going to the airport if I don’t have a plane to catch and can just see someone off or sit and “people watch” until the flight I’m waiting for lands. I especially enjoy watching kids of all ages at the airport. I try to guess where they may be flying, who they are with and where they are from.

Whenever I see a kid (or two) tipping over trash cans and yelling at the tops of their lungs as they’re running all over the concourse, I’ll turn to Lynda and say, “You see that kid over there playing on the courtesy phone and kicking his mom? Well, it doesn’t matter what city or state he lives in, he’ll end up in my class next year!”

It’s fun to watch parents interact with their kids (other than with electronics) while waiting in the terminal, either producing quiet games they can play or even mental brain teasers like guessing what year that tuna salad sandwich in the Quick-Stop was made.

Going through security always raises my anxiety level and tests my ability to quickly and efficiently load the gray petri dish with my stuff, get through the X-ray machine without my pants falling down or the alarms sounding, then shuffling along to a spot to put my shoes and belt back on. Many times I’ve been waiting to go through security when I suddenly discovered forbidden items in one of my pockets, only to throw them away if there wasn’t someone around to take it home for me. I think this is how TSA officials get their stocking stuffers for Christmas.

I’m thinking it was my dad who was standing in line one time and discovered he hadn’t removed his pocket knife, which is something that he always carries with him. So with no way to get the knife home, he went back out to the curb in front of the terminals, found a planter box and buried his knife among the plants. He retrieved the knife from the planter box on his return trip, which makes me wonder how many other “treasures” are buried out there?

Probably my most memorable experience going through security at the airport in Salt Lake was when I accompanied my mom and sister to the airport to see my sister off on her way back to Tennessee after a short visit. I thought I’d checked all my pockets but set the alarm off going through the metal detector. I removed my ring and it still went off, so they waved me through and had me stand away from everyone else while they checked me with the wand. At first they thought it might be the eyelets on my hunting boots, but the wand beeped as it passed my lower cargo pocket on my pants, which I thought I had already checked.

I stuck my hand deep into my pocket and grabbed what felt like a couple of D batteries that I must have left there. However, when I pulled them out, they weren’t batteries but a couple of #6 steel 12 gauge shotgun rounds that had been overlooked from my previous week’s duck hunting trip. Time stood still as the TSA agent looked me in the eye and inquired, “And just what are you planning on doing with those?”’

Horrified, I choked out a strangled “Giving them to you” and sheepishly handed them over. The ATF guys escorted me into a side room and grilled me about having live ammunition in an airport, finally releasing me with a promise to “Use a little common sense“

If you’re ever traveling through an airport with your family and see a plexiglass case containing prohibited items in it that people have tried to take on an airplane, and among those items you see two red plastic #6 steel shot duck loads, you can tell your kids, “I know the knucklehead those belong to.” And once again I’ll have retained the dubious title of “village Idiot.”

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